Destiny's Choice is an original work of fiction, a science fiction thriller of novel length with uber qualities. The plot is layered with romance, political intrigue, sex, and violence. At times the drama can be intense. Enjoy. Once completed I hope to find a publisher. I appreciate comments good and bad, especially if they are constructive.

Destiny's Choice

Chapter 9: The Audience

            "Okay, pause."

The scene froze into a tableau.

No one saw the door open or the woman who quietly slipped into the top row and took a seat.

            "What is going on?"

            Tad Grover answered, "The argument has taken us right back to Locke and Rousseau."

            "That just doesn't make sense. How do the material needs of Earth and the Lunar colonies feed into this argument?"

            "Good question, Kent. How does it?"

            "Aren't most colonies established for just that reason?"

            "Is that the real reason for the development of Martian Central?"

            "Sure." Several heads bobbed.

            Hayley walked midst the students who had spent most of the morning center stage discussing the Douglasites, the delegates attending the convention who wanted the large conglomerates on Mars to have a larger voice in what was happening.

            "Fernando, why did your family come to Mars?"

             "My parents got jobs with Menteck."

            "See, jobs. Hayley they came for economic reasons."

            "Couldn't they have simply stayed at home or gone to the moon? Why Mars?"

            "Because it was warmer than Io," joked a student resting in a front row chair.

            "Bingo," chuckled Hayley. "But then cold is cold whether you're here, on Io, or floating along in the void of space without a heating regular. Back to the problem at hand. Why do sane men and women, or maybe not so sane men and women, volunteer, and even pay good hard earned credits, to go out to some unknown rock to live?"

            "The adventure, of course."

            "Absolutely. It's the adventure," Hayley gave her students a smile.

            Now the answers came fast and furious. "To discover something new."

            "To be the first one to see something."

            "The notoriety?"

            "For the freedom, how to say, the independence of being your own person?"

            "All while answering to the command structure," joked Tom Watson flippantly.

            The class laughed.

            "And striking it rich," Sadmir added.

            "Okay, you've got me there," Hayley wiped her eyes when the jocularity ebbed. "Yes, money, economic gain, power, prestige, they all go hand in hand. The reason of why is complex, layered. So, what does this eventually mean for and to these delegates? For their constituents? These men and women have a variety of complex reasons why they are doing and saying what they are. Today's session has looked at the wishes and needs of the conglomerates, which had much at stake. Over the one and a half centuries Mars was a colony, the congloms had invested trillions of dollars into infrastructure, societal necessities, education, well this very institution. It was founded, with money from more than a dozen conglomerates to educate those who were Martian to be engineers, mathematicians, chemists, hydroponic experts, vulcanists, and for every other profession they might need to fulfill their missions of tapping into this land's resources, processing them, and shipping them. Now all of a sudden people, like Marla Karolek, start spouting Rousseau and Locke."

            "Weren't Karolek's words from the Constitution of the U.G.C.?"

            "No, no, no," Hayley gently shook her head; her wrist vibrated. She looked down at her wristcom. "Okay. The ol' wrist says its time we say good-bye for the day. Tomorrow, let's return to this point. I want to know why and how these references are brought into the debate at this point. Also, I've put several documents on my Net. For some of you, they will probably look familiar. But for the rest, for those who have spent most of your time learning the ins and outs of taking apart a hyperlight engine blindfolded, they shall amaze and dazzle you. And if not, then I shall deconstruct the web of mystery they might appear to weave. Until Friday.

            Several students immediately drew PDAs from their pockets and packs.

            "The Magna Carta?"

            "Two Treatises—Professor, these are ancient."

            "Ah, but this is history. The past may confound, but it reality it provides the clues to who, what, where, and why we are who we are." Hayley returned to the lectern at the front of the room and saved the sessions Vid for later review.

 "Oh wow!"

"It's Stone."


"Christine Stone."


"Hey, Professor! Hayley! Don't you rank!"

Hayley looked up from her tasks towards the commotion in the gallery. "Oh, by Mars," she gasped with a hoarse voice. A dizzying rush swept over her. Why is she here?

Christine Stone stepped onto the lecture stage. Dressed in a black and tan pinstripe suit with a cream-toned blouse, she wore her hair down and loose. A platinum wristcom adorned her right wrist; a simple platinum chain hung loosely from her neck.

"Nice class, Professor." Stone pushed a rope of hair back behind an ear. "Or is it, Doctor?"

"Either." Hayley fumbled as she reached for her valise. "I prefer Hayley."

"Answer to anything?" Brown eyes sparkled in amusement. "The Magna Carta? Locke and Rousseau? Brings back memories."

"The basic building blocks of political history and philosophy." Hayley shrugged.

            "I understand she attended the book talk." Hushed gossip filtered down from the stairs as students filed out.

"Drop dead."

"Gawd, wish I could've been there."

"And at the party at her parents'."

"That figures."

Christine seemed to ignore the hubbub. "Bruce said this was your last class of the day."

            Hayley smiled, "I was lucky. All of my classes this term are in the morning." Hayley nearly cringed, her attempt at small talk sounding lame, forced.

            DeBow's chief of staff curled her lips into a gentle, calming smile. Then almost shyly she asked, "I was hoping you might join me for lunch?"

            "Did you hear that?"

"She's asking the doc to lunch." Whispers raced up the stairs to the exit.

            Hayley cleared her throat. "I usually go by the Commons for a bite."

            The gossip continued as the room cleared. "Business or pleasure?"

            "I was hoping we might go to the Faculty Dining Room."

            "I'm not dressed," Hayley gestured to her slacks

            Christine moved towards the stairs. "You look fine, beautiful in fact."

"Thank you," Hayley stuttered. "The FDR—ah Faculty Dining Commons,' she fumbled and stumbled as she finished saving her notes and the session vid. "That would be fine." She looked up and met Christine's simple gaze and calm expression. She gestured to the exit through which the last of her students were disappearing.

            "You know, I got lost in this maze," Christine led the way.

Hayley followed, "Easy to do if you don't know the system," she said, her voice still shaky.

"What system?" The smile was warm, genuine.

Hayley shut off the lights and locked the door. "Follow me."

"Okay, tour guide."

It was the "quickie tour" or so Hayley claimed as she nervously guided her visitor and they made their way through the corridors and along the movers, ascending until they reached the upper garden level of the University Country Club.

"You certainly know the university."

"I grew up here tagging along after my grandmother."

"I understand she was also a historian."


Christine pulled the solid oak door to the Faculty Dining Room and followed Hayley into the restaurant. "Nice. Not bad. I think Bruce and Delores brought me here for a little gathering before their wedding."

"You probably don't have much time for travel, vacationing, with your schedule."

"Nor you I would gather."

A formally attired maitre d' led them to an exquisitely set table near a large tinted picture window where they could admire a vast gardens overflowing with a bounty of fauna. Cascades of draping roses, bougainvillea, grape hyacinths, geraniums, nasturtiums, begonias, and ferns of every variety filled the scene.  "Can I get you anything?" Their host addressed Christine as he handed her a menu, then Hayley.

            "Hayley?" Christine opened her menu. "Some wine?"

            "No," Hayley replied. "Could I have some ice water with a wedge of limeon?" She addressed the host directly.

            "Yes same, and do you carry Späten?" Their host nodded. "I'll take a bottle then," Christine ordered. "I noticed you didn't drink much at your party," she said when they were alone.

            "I have a little now and then." Hayley straightened the fork resting on her napkin. "Usually alcohol just makes me sleepy. I need to prepare for classes and review some papers and vids tonight."

            "I didn't realize you were running simulations. I would have liked to have seen more. Next time I'll have to get your sister to draw me a damned map."

            Hayley cleared her throat. It felt dry. She smiled.
            "Besides history and teaching, what else do you like to do? Bruce says you're not interested in politics."

"Only from a historical perspective."

A waiter returned. He placed a bottle of beer and a frosty glass in front of Christine and a large, heavy, crystal goblet filled with ice cubes and water in front of Hayley. A green and yellow striped limeon wedge perched on the rim. As the waiter set out the drinks, he introduced himself and gave a brief description of the day's specials.

            Thirsty from her classes, the walk, and her nerves, Hayley took an immediate sip. Following the waiter with her eyes as he left to give them time to look over the menu, she tried to see if she recognized any of the other patrons.

            She had noticed Dr. Haughsinger, the head of the History Department, upon their arrival. She and her three companions were finishing the last bites of their meals in the back corner. They seemed engaged in a heated discussion of some kind; but that was Haughsinger's style, confrontational. She also recognized several other members of the faculty, some of the university's executive staff members, and an administrator or two. In a closer corner, Dr. Miranda occupied a table with his companion, a tall man with a decidedly gaunt appearance. Spying her, Miranda spoke to his tablemate. Nodding, he and the second gentleman rose and walked towards them.

            "Dr. Miranda." Hayley greeted him. Politely, she began to stand.

            With a quick hand gesture, he urged her to keep her seat.

            "Chief Stone? Didn't I see you at Dr. Genetti's book talk?" Miranda extended his hand.

             "This is Dr. Florenzo Miranda . . . the Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences," Hayley introduced.

            Christine shook Miranda's hand.

            "With a Genetti at the podium I had expected to see several Martian government functionaries, but to have the honor of your attendance." Miranda almost bowed.

            "I was visiting with Hayley's brother-in-law and sister. They're old school chums."

            "I do hope your mother accepted my apologies for missing her party," Miranda said to Hayley.

            "I hope your wife is feeling better?" Hayley asked. She noticed the tall gentleman next to Miranda. He wore an odd smile as he studied her. She shifted in her chair.

            "Just a twenty-four hour Jovian virus. Actually a reaction to the vaccine she had taken as a preventative, but thank you for asking." The thinner man nudged Miranda. "Oh, yeah," he snickered, as if he and visitor had a secret joke. "Let me introduce Dr. Nathan Webster, Dean of Humanities and Letters at M.I.T." 

"Chief? I am honored," Webster shook Christine's hand. Then his gaze returned to Hayley. He extended his hand. Hayley took it. "Dr. Genetti, the pleasure is all mine."

Miranda finished, "I've been telling Nathan about your book talk last Saturday."

            Dr. Webster kept Hayley's hand in his. "I wish I had known about it. I would have come sooner. I read your book. One of the best scholastic studies I've seen on the human need for extraterrestrial colonization."

            Webster cupped her hand in his. Hayley blushed. "Thank you."

            Miranda said to Hayley, "I've given Nathan a ROM."

            "You'll find Dr. Genetti's talk most informative, an excellent accompaniment to the book," said Christine to Webster. She wore a smile that said hands off— I was here first.

            "You are a devotee of history?" Dr. Webster asked Christine with just a hint of challenge in his voice.

            "I am now." Christine gave Hayley a lingering glance.

            Dr. Miranda grinned.

            So did Webster. His look told Christine she was safe. He spoke to Hayley. "I look forward to viewing your presentation. Who knows?  M.I.T. has been thinking about adding a division of Galactic History. If you're as good as I've been hearing, I might just snag you away from this barren red dust ball."

            "Hayley would never leave," Miranda said confidently.

            "I'm sure I could offer an appropriate enticement. A full professorship and access to all of the Smithsonian files?"

            "Already has those," Miranda puffed out his chest and put a hand on her shoulder.

            "I'm sure I could find an incentive." Webster smiled.

             "Dr. Miranda's right," Hayley admitted, giving her boss a grin. "I'm not interested. I've got red dust in my veins. Seventh generation Martian, my family is here."

            "But think about it." Dr. Webster added a final wink as he pumped her hand one last time. "As the premier historian in Martian and galactic history, a field that is just opening on Earth, you could write your own ticket."

            "I'm treated very well here, but thank you."

            "It was nice meeting you," Webster once again shook Christine's hand.

            "Next time you're up at the University let my secretary know," Miranda pulled a chip from his inside coat pocket. "Give you the complete tour; take in a couple of our best teachers."

            "Thank you, I'll see, only as long as I get to sit in another of Dr. Genetti's classes."

            "That we can do," Miranda smiled at Hayley. "Enjoy your lunch ladies."

            "We will," Hayley nodded good bye and watched as the two men as they returned to their table.  Engaged in a brief exchange, a sort of bantering, Miranda looked back over his shoulder. With a frolicsome snicker, he said something to Webster, who also took one last glance and smiled.

            "Seems you have many fans," commented Christine dryly as she took a sip of her beer.

            Hayley shrugged. "They and you are just nice."

            Something in Christine's expression said she did not believe her. "You're not serious?"

            "Are we ready to order?" The waiter appeared at their elbows.

            "I am," said Christine with a hint of irritation in her voice. She quickly ordered.

            Hayley followed suit and the waiter left.

            "I hope you weren't serious," Christine said again, her gaze never leaving Hayley's face.

            Hayley smiled shyly.  She was sure she was blushing. She hated such scrutiny, but for some reason, perhaps her own unrequited vanity, she enjoyed the unsolicited attention. "About what?"

            "First about your skills." Hayley felt her blush increase on the scale of redness. Christine sipped her beer. "About not wanting to leave Mars?" she added.

            The second caught Hayley off guard. She took a sip of her water. "On vacation perhaps, but no. This is my home."

            "But you're a Genetti?"

            "And a Martian."

            Christine set her beer down. Her tone turned serious. "What if your government called you to service?"

"I'm no politician. I have no inclinations whatsoever in that direction—"

            "The U.G.C. and DeBow's administration needs you."

"Yeah," Hayley laughed dismissively. "Sure."

"No, the administration is in need of a historian; a respected historian to create educational materials explaining why humanity's push to the stars should be a priority."

"You mean propaganda."

Christine smile. "The truth. Hayley, our government is currently under siege. There is a movement that's taking root that wants to stop all human efforts of interstellar exploration."

"You're talking about Dr. Light Horse."

"And her pseudo-academism. I want you to join my staff as my Director of Historical Education. With your background, you would be perfect."

            "Director of Historical Education," Hayley chuckled. "That's a mighty impressive title, but you don't understand," she rebuffed, "I'm no politician."

            "But you're a Genetti and the U.G.C. needs you."
            Playing with the condensation forming a foggy hazy around her glass, making short little zigzag lines with the tip of her right index finger, Hayley could not hide her wry expression as she shook her head. "You obviously don't know very much about me. I guess you didn't run this absurdity by Bruce or Delores. Delores would have told you that the reason the book talk started late was because I was in the ladies' room losing the breakfast and lunch I'd been smart enough to avoid eating. I might be a Genetti, but I am no politician. Hell, I hate everything that goes with the job—crowds, public speaking, parties, making small-talk."

            "I know everything I need to know about you," Christine interrupted sternly. "I know you published your first article in the Galactic History Journal when you were ten."

            "Just helping my grandmother."

            "No more false modesty," Christine scolded curtly. She pulled a Palm from the pocket of her blazer. You've published over fifty articles on various aspects of Martian History and this theory of yours on mobility. You've also written a small book for grade school students on the historical principles of the Martian Constitution. You've created a series of interactive learning modules on the U.G.C. for the Intergalactic Society of History Teachers, and four years ago you and your grandmother wrote the text for a series of documentaries for the nets on Anton Brezhinski, the earlier Mariners, the United Mining Consortium, and Martian contributions in intergalactic affairs. You received your doctorate in history at twenty, became a tenured associate professor at twenty-two, and received your tenure and full professorship just last year at the age of twenty-eight, the youngest in the history of this university. Surprisingly Where No Man Has Gone Before is your first book, and though Martian University Press has distributed mainly to academic facilities and libraries, after your talk Saturday they are reviewing that decision. They are thinking of a second printing, making it available on the Net."

            "My, my—you know more about me then I do."

"I do my research and what I want I get."

"You're pretty full of yourself."

"Absolutely. Need to be to do my job. Listen Hayley, I've read your book," she continued, "and I attended your book talk. You are a damned good historian and a damned good orator. You write so that the average Spacer and Earther can understand what you have to say. Hell, you make it entertaining. At the book talk you had that audience engrossed on your every word."

            "They were trapped."

            "No." Christine took a sip of his beer. "You had them spellbound. You had me spellbound, and I'll be the first to admit I've never had any great interest in history, only the requirements needed to get my degrees. No," a small congenial smile broke across her lips as she finished the last of the brew in her glass. She placed the glass back on the table. "You're a damn fine historian—a historian for the masses. You are definitely a Genetti. The content is different to be sure, but you, your sister, mother, father—if your damned family wasn't so committed to Martian politics—maybe Bruce," she acknowledged her brother-in-law's more galactic aspirations. "Well, I expect, one day, to see a Genetti sitting in the governor general's office."

            "Maybe Bruce," Hayley concurred, shaking her head at Christine's preposterous notion. "I'm just a simple historian and teacher. That's all I've ever wanted.  I have no grand schemes for my life. I don't even want to be a dean. I just want to teach my classes, do research, and write—maybe one day become head archivist like my grandmother," she conceded as her mind wandered and she rambled just a bit. "But politics? No way! You don't know how much I hated Saturday."

            "You were nervous."

            "Nervous is an understatement."

Hayley stopped speaking when the waiter returned with their meals. Sitting quietly, she watched as he placed a large plate of pasta drenched in a seductive alfredo cream sauce with a crispy, sautéed vegetable medley of cauliflower, broccoli, red peppers, and carrots, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese in front of Christine. Christine unfolded her napkin and laid it across her lap. Taking her fork, she prepared to assault the brightly colored dish.

            Mimicking the same polite movements, Hayley laid her own beige napkin across her lap. Less impatient to eat, she kept her hands back allowing the waiter to set her salad and a small vial of dressing in the open space in front of her.

            "Thank you," they said in turn.

            Hayley picked up her fork and took inventory of the various greens: red and green lettuce, some Romaine, spinach, endive, artichoke hearts, julienne slices of green, red, purple, and yellow bell pepper, garbanzo and kidney beans, wedges of a juicy red beefsteak tomato, and cubes of blackened chicken, and cheese, cheddar and jack.

            "That looks good," Christine motioned as she put a bite of the decadently dressed fettuccine in her mouth.

            Hayley drizzled half of the Caesar dressing over her feast. "Yes," she imagined the cool crunchy taste of the greens bursting in her mouth. She eagerly stabbed the garden fresh mound with her fork.

            "I concede, you were nervous," Christine returned to their interrupted conversation as she slurped the last of a noodle. "But to tell you the truth, I bet if you were to ask Bruce, Delores, or even your parents, they'd tell you that before a speaking engagement they have to fight their nerves."

            "Nerves, yes," Hayley swallowed. "Not outright panic and terror. They don't throw up. I do!"

            "Maybe not the throwing up, but I know the terror and panic that can come with getting up in front of an audience. Hayley, public speaking is like riding a bicycle. The first couple of times are a bit wobbly, but with experience, it becomes so in-grained you would think talking to large groups of people was something you always did. It becomes natural. Probably like teaching. How do you get through all of your classes? I counted nearly seventy seats in that lecture hall and according to the Registrar's Office most of your classes are full."

            "That's different," Hayley argued, not hiding her annoyance with Christine's audacity. "When I teach, I never feel self-conscious, like I'm on display."


            "When I'm teaching I see myself as an actress. The classroom is my stage, and I am only a character in a play. It's not really me my students see. So if I blow it and make a fool of myself, they aren't ridiculing me. They're laughing at a character I've created. I've never had any misconceptions about who I am. When class is over, I go back to my real persona—quiet, little, ole introverted me."

            "Is that what you did for the book talk?"

            Hayley thought for moment and then nodded. "Yes."

            "And the party?"

            "I hated every minute of that. I wanted to run as far away as I could and hide. If I could have gotten away with it, I would have snuck up to my parents' study and lost myself in a book."


            "I've just never been good at big gatherings like that. I never know what to say. I hate small talk. I feel like I'm smothering—I'm claustrophobic. Everything—everyone just becomes a great, big spinning maze. Sometimes I can even feel myself starting to hyperventilate. I get dizzy; I feel sick."

            "You seemed to do all right Saturday?"

            "Delores wouldn't let go of me. I was so happy when the evening ended. I went home and hid all day Sunday."

            Christine put another forkful of twirled noodles into her mouth. Chewing, she watched Hayley. Her dark eyes, like walnut glazed amber, piercing, they seemed to penetrate into her soul, peeling back the layers of her carefully hidden persona. Awash in her gaze, Hayley wondered if her face had reddened again. She was warm, uncomfortable.

            "You are a paradox, Dr. Genetti. Do you know how lovely you are? You are really a beautiful woman."

            Now Hayley knew she was blushing. The sudden change in the subject of their conversation had taken her completely by surprise. She wanted to say something, to neutralize her attention and growing infatuation.

            "I bet you hear it all the time." Christine chewed. "I remember the last time I came to Mars—Delores and Bruce's wedding. You were just a skinny little teenager. I couldn't believe it last Friday when Bruce told me that this foxy lady on the other end of the Vid was you."

            Hayley wished she would stop. At the same time she found herself enjoying the flattery.

            Looking straight into her eyes, Christine produced a coy smile. "I find you enchanting."

Part 10

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